I always respect a politician who is strong in the face of Democracy. After all its far less risky than being strong in the face of Terrorism or Dictatorship.
on the reaction to the “non”.
David Farrer suggests:
The widespread trashing of the education system by politicians that has resulted in pinko-victimological-media studies being considered superior to engineering.
[Or at least he did on my Bloglines feed but the article does not seem to have made it to the actual blog. So, if you’re reading this David, you have some work to do, unless the idea was to keep this under your hat for a while, in which case - too late.]
Update Aah (see comments) - mea culpa. I’ve noticed this too - Bloglines bringing up a post from way back. I’ve always assumed it was something to do with updates but apparently not.
From James Bartholomew:
The Inspectors are laughably ignorant about the actual work, literally, I once had to leave the room because I had a fit of the giggles.
The quote is actually about care homes but it could be about anything.
Last night, I attended an excellent talk by Antoine Clarke on the French EU referendum at one of Brian Micklethwait’s regular “Last Friday of the month” evenings. (By the way, if you would like to come along to one of these please drop me an e-mail and I will forward it to Brian).
These events are at their best when you get to hear big, new ideas. Yesterday, was no exception. Antoine’s big idea was that EU is becoming more free market. His evidence was that the French left has turned heavily against the EU because (to them) it is too “liberal”. As Antoine pointed out they can’t all be wrong.
This is quite surprising. It certainly doesn’t feel like that from over here. Fed on a diet of the Booker column for the last decade, the EU has seemed anything but liberal. I have also lost count of the number of times that our politicians have claimed that “the arguments are going our way” when they patently haven’t. But maybe, finally, they are. Stephen Pollard seems to think so and I even heard a rumour last night that the Constitution may lead to the abolition of the NHS.
Someone else chipped in (I think it was Brian) that this is not entirely incredible. The EU’s purpose is to abolish the nation. So far it has employed socialist and social democratic methods but should liberal, free market methods prove more effective (and there’s every reason to think they might) then they will be the ones to be adopted.
So, should free marketeers start to embrace the EU? Not so fast. First, the EU might turn into a liberal despotism but it would still be a despotism. Second, while EU-wide liberalism might be better than EU-wide socialism, competing jurisdictions with their ability to make mistakes and to learn from them would (as David Carr pointed out) be better still. Third, my great worry about the EU is its ability to create war-inducing disputes. A liberal, free market EU is just as likely to create those sorts of disputes as a socialist one - just think about the row the abolition of the NHS might cause.
Recently I have been toying with the idea of switching on the BBC, seeing how long it takes them to annoy me and then blogging about it. I feel that it might prove therapeutic.
I wasn’t really intending to start today, but I lazily switched on the telly far too early this morning and more or less straight away they were demonstrating why they should be closed down. It was News 24 and they were doing a piece on the “right to roam”. So, we got five minutes of puff for the Ramblers Association saying how wonderful it was, 10 seconds of the wimpy Country Landowners Association saying “be careful” and absolutely no time at all to the prospect that property rights are the basis of prosperity, that this is legalised theft and how would you like it if the local chavs were allowed to roam all over your property.
Here he is on the great philosophers of our age:
Understandably unwilling to leave the great moral questions to rival Chris Martin of Coldplay (who, readers will remember, recently identified “shareholders” as “the greatest evil of the modern world"), fellow theologian/ethicist Thom Yorke of Radiohead ventures to disagree. Mr. Yorke maintains that ultimate evil is instead represented by “people denying that climate change exists,” as the Indy’s “5-Minute Interviewer” puts it (not online).
and here he is on the dangers of leftism:
For just as repeated and prolonged exposure to radiation in a physics lab can weaken and kill the body, so can the similarly toxic emanations of a cultural studies department pollute and ultimately destroy the mind, rendering it incapable of expressing ideas as intended - or, often, in a manner even comprehensible by those not similarly afflicted.
Beijing not Peking; Newcassell not Newcastle; Me-hi-co not Mexico.
Paris not Paree; Vienna not Wien; Dublin not Baile Ath Cliath.
Why asks Don Boudreaux.
Squander Two gazes into his crystal ball:
And then the practical jokes would start. Some bright spark would hack the thing, changing the factory destination settings so that they could piss on chavs remotely.
Ah, but what technology is he thinking of?
I have always been rather dubious about the claim that the EU and its predecessors have prevented a war in Europe and so I was looking forward to reading Helen Szamuely’s take down. Unfortunately, I didn’t understand it so I thought I’d have a go myself.
Wars start because states find issues on which they disagree. The First World War started because Britain thought Germany was too powerful and Germany thought she wasn’t powerful enough. Ditto the Second World War. The Iraq War started because the Allies didn’t like the look of Saddam Hussein. Saddam Hussein, underpants aside, thought his looks were just fine.
The Big Dispute in Europe between 1945 and 1989 was over communism. The Warsaw Pact thought that it should expand. NATO disagreed. That dispute could have escalated into a real war at any time but it didn’t. Two possibilities: the ever present threat of instant annihilation posed by nuclear weapons or the EU (oh, hang about that didn’t come into being until 1992, I mean the EC, oh hang about that didn’t come into being until 1986, I mean the EEC, oh hang about that didn’t come into being until 1958. No what I mean is the European Coal and Steel Community. Yes, that’s what Euro-fanatics would have us believe kept the peace between 1950 and 1958. That we didn’t get vapourised in the five years before was just good luck. )
No prizes for guessing which one I would plump for. But, hey, let’s give them a chance. Maybe, there was indeed a conversation in the Kremlin that went like this:
Boris: Let’s invade Western Europe.
Vladimir: No, Boris. They have the Common Agricultural Policy and a Common External Tariff. We’d never stand a chance.
OK, well that gets up to 1989. What then? Well, the problem is the absence of a major dispute between the major European powers. France doesn’t grieve over Alsace-Lorraine. Germany doesn’t want to invade Poland. No disputes, no war.
The funny thing is about the only disputes that do exist are the creation of the EU itself. Britain doesn’t like the Common Fisheries Policy. France doesn’t like Spain’s wine. Danes don’t like German immigrants. No one likes Britain’s rebate or Greece’s budget deficit. So far, they are survivable. But what if they got really serious, like a demand that Britain fund the Continent’s pensions?
I don’t remember the period before 1973 (when Britain joined the EEC) that well but I am not aware of any disputes we had with our neighbours. Nowadays, thanks to Europeanism we have them aplenty. How long before one of them starts a war?
God made the world in seven days, but it was a fairly bleak and hopeless place full of volcanoes and sharks. On the eighth day, however, man got cracking and as home improvements go, did a monumentally good job. He created light, warmth, the potato crisp and the dishwasher.
Jeremy Clarkson praises engineering.
Brian Micklethwait thinks that the government’s new committee on school discipline won’t work. He contrasts the “all must attend” ethos of state schools with what happens in shops:
I mean, shops who are subjected to customers whom they take against just get a couple of extremely big men in uniforms to escort them to the door. They do not waste their time blaming the parents or setting up committees – sorry, task forces – to make detailed recommendations, or for that matter demanding for themselves any new and draconian powers. They have all the powers they need.
Which is exactly what the Bluewater shopping centre decided to do this week and as DumbJon points out it has already seen a 25% increase in the number of customers.
Who says social exclusion is a bad thing?
Tim Worstall has his own reasons (see comments) for not publishing full posts to his RSS feed:
I know none of us britbloggers are anywhere close to making money out of this yet but the time will come when some are and it will be advertising driven. Got to get people to come to the actual site.
I suppose it depends on why you blog. I blog to get my ideas across and to be read. But if were paid to do it then I would be able to blog more and, therefore, get more ideas across and be read more. So, I could be in a bind here if it weren’t for my naive belief that if you make it as easy as possible for people to read you then the money (if there is any) will follow.
That is why I am such a big advocate of RSS feeds - they make it easier to be read. And that is why I believe they will be the future. Indeed, I think the day is not far off when RSS feeds supplant blogs altogether.
Strangely enough, only yesterday, Pejman Yousefzadah, writing for Tech Central Station was suggesting that not long from now bloggers will get paid for their RSS feeds as aggregators share the proceeds of advertising.
Respoding to my post of a couple of days ago Alan Little suggests that it isn’t always such a good idea to include the full text of a posting especially if that posting also includes lots of images. Which is a fair point but if the consideration should apply to the RSS feed then it should also apply to the original blog posting. In other words, the content of the RSS feed should be exactly the same as the front page blog posting. If part of that posting is placed in a “Read More” section (something I am usually against) then the same should apply to the RSS feed.
Incidentally, I understand that Brian Micklethwait’s archives will be up and running Real Soon Now.
...most of the people the government is relying on to defeat yob culture are conscientious objectors in the war on crime.
Dumb Jon expresses an uncharacteristic cynicism.
This is a request to all of you out there with RSS feeds. Please ensure that they contain the full text of each posting. Why’s that? Because, if, like me, you read blogs via aggregators such as Bloglines which in turn rely on RSS feeds then there are few things more frustrating than only being able to read the title and a couple of sentences of the entry. Even if the entry looks good (and frankly, few do at that stage) there is a period of hesitancy while the reader weighs up the pros and cons: “...well, it looks good but then again I have to click and it opens up a new window and then I have to wait and then there’s the slightly disconcerting change of font, colour and background and after all that the entire article might only last five more words.” It’s the sort of debate that often ends with: “Nah, can’t be bothered.”
Anyway, I guess there are some bloggers reading this who while pretty much accepting the argument are unsure of how to make this happen or even if this is a problem for them. If you are one of them then to you I’ll make this rash promise: if you are prepared to give me a log-in with administrator privileges then (if I can) I will make the necessary adjustments, assuming they have to be made. Can’t say fairer than that now, can you?
Interesting comment from Phelps - he prefers extracts - and there I was thinking I was doing readers a favour. Golly, hadn’t expected that (expect the unexpected, Ed).
So, that means I now have to produce two feeds. Easier said than done - Expression Engine doesn’t do word-limited extracts - they have to be done manually. Talk about being hoist by your own petard.
What we really need is aggregators that do the extracting for you though that would only work for web-based aggregators. Maybe those clever people at Bloglines will come up with something.
Mind you, it does illustrate a general rule that (in a different context) I’ve remarked upon before: the web experience is very diverse. Surfers use different operating systems, different resolutions, different browsers, different connection speeds and different chips. In the context of RSS feeds, different aggregators.
Mark Ellott has been reading up on the Amagasaki rail crash:
Whatever errors there are in our management systems in the UK, at least we do not require drivers who make mistakes, such as overrunning platforms or even passing signals at danger to undergo what the Japanese Railway calls “day-shift education” where senior staff berate the employee and where they are made to write reports reflecting on their errors. This is nothing more than ritual humiliation and several members of staff apparently have been so demoralised they later committed suicide.
The implication being that the driver in the Amagasaki crash preferred to take a ludicrous risk (one that ended up killing him and 100 others) rather than face “day-shift education” again.
But there’s something rather odd about this. As Mark says this is “prehistoric”. In other words it’s been going on for some time, probably decades. But (to the best of my knowledge) nothing like this has ever happened before. When Brian Micklethwait and I had a chat about this the other day he concluded that: “They don’t make Japanese like they used to”. Which tends to corroborate a story I linked to the other day plus bits and pieces of anecdotal evidence I’ve picked up over the last couple of years.
Japan is changing.
[Incidentally, I think after JR West and others have gone in for their usual heavy-duty navel-gazing, we’ll see a massive effort to introduce the sort of technology that is already being used on the Shinkansen bullet trains and which automatically slows a train that is travelling too fast.]
I like old Jeremy Clarkson. He’s an unapologetic “bloke” just like many guys I know who make up the hard working backbone of this land. So what if we attempt to wear 10 year old jeans built for our ten years old waistline, like 1970s rock music, enjoy war films where the plucky Brits and some swarthy Greeks single handedly give battalions of bosch a right good licking, read tabloids, work 8 ‘till 4:30 and have fun whilst driving?
Mark Holland carries a torch for the Britbloke.
Mattias Matussek, Der Spiegel’s London correspondent and brother of the German ambassador, certainly knows how to put a cat among the pigeons. In an article (via A&L Daily), to coincide with the 60th anniversary of VE-Day he makes a number of charges:
- That we still think that the Germans are a bunch of Nazis
- That we overestimate our contribution to victory.
- That in taking pride over our achievements in World War II we tend to gloss over things like Dresden, the failure to do anything about the concentration camps and various other imperial crimes.
I have to say, on Charge 1 I tend to agree. This attitude is most apparent at England-Germany football games. I find the boorish behaviour of England fans so embarrassing that it has not been unknown for me to find myself supporting Germany.
Having said that I do find myself wondering how this came about. It doesn’t seem to happen in the States and it doesn’t seem to have been present at the 1966 World Cup Final. I can’t help thinking it is at least in part related to the British establishment’s self-loathing and to the left’s take-over of the history curriculum. Unfortunately, I’ve never quite been able to join the dots on this one.
As far as overestimating our contribution well, who can say? There are no parallel universes where counter-factuals are allowed to play themselves out. I will say this though: I do not see how freedom could have returned to Western Europe had Britain been knocked out of the war in 1940. And without the bomber campaign and the threat of an invasion of France the balance of forces on the Eastern Front might have been quite different.
However, the part of his article that I find most disturbing is the accusation of glossing over. For starters it’s a complete mismatch. You cannot usefully compare actions (such as the Holocaust) which were primary policy with actions like Dresden which may or not have been mistakes committed in the pursuance of primary policy. The killing of Jews was intentional, the killing of German civilians was incidental.
But what is really alarming about this charge is its motivation. By dragging up things like this Matussek is effectively saying: your ancestors were no better than ours. Now whether this is an attempt to rehabilitate the Nazis or to belittle the World War Two generation I can’t say but I can’t help but think this is somehow wrapped up with Europeanism and the desire to eliminate national feeling. Whatever, the case may be he’s wrong. Our ancestors were a great bunch. And so long as we honour and preserve the culture that made them we can be proud of them.
I was watching an otherwise excellent BBC Timewatch documentary today about the establishment of trench warfare in 1914. It made the point that all sorts of otherwise unrelated inventions from the machine gun to barbed wire to canning contributed to making trench warfare possible. Unfortunately, the BBC in their wisdom marred the whole programme by one line at the end. It was something like: “…a war characterised by mass slaughter and a lack of imagination from senior commanders.”
Lack of imagination? What an extraordinarily ignorant remark. Senior British (and I assume French) commanders made enormous efforts to find technical and tactical solutions to the problem of trench warfare. In Britain, an entire department spent the war commissioning and evaluating inventions proposed by the public (most of which were completely useless). They tested body armour, body shields, helmets, periscopes, sniperscopes, rifle batteries, mortars, Bangalore torpedoes, wire cutters, automatic weapons and much more. Weapons such as the Stokes mortar, the Lewis gun, the tank, gas and smoke shells were all introduced. In artillery, sound ranging, flash-buzz (not quite sure what it is but it was apparently very useful) were adopted. It has been said that the 105 (or was it 109?) fuse (again I am not quite sure what it did) was a war winner all by itself.
Tactically, the British army experimented with creeping barrages, Chinese barrages, machine-gun barrages, night attacks, predicted firing, mines, camouflage and air re-supply. As the war progressed the British army became extraordinarily good at keeping build-ups of men and material from the enemy. There was a huge expansion of the air force along with the introduction of both tactical and strategic bombing.
Much of this willingness to experiment can be traced to that supposed butcher Douglas Haig. There is some extraordinary tale of him ordering 1000 tanks sight unseen. He also engaged in a lengthy correspondence in the search for effective body armour for his troops. But perhaps Haig’s greatest strength was his willingness to allow his commanders to command. In some cases eg Hubert Gough his trust was misplaced. But in others eg Plumer and Monash it was rewarded in spades. After Monash’s highly successful attack on Le Hamel in July 1918, Haig ordered his battle plan to be widely circulated. All this effort was in the end rewarded. By the end of 1918 the British Army had restored a level of mobility to the battlefield that (as Paddy Griffith points out) would be regarded as perfectly acceptable by its Second World War heirs.
It is not an unnatural human desire to search for someone to blame for disasters on the scale of the First World War. But the truth is that there is no one to blame. It was just bad luck that the war was fought at a time when defensive technologies were so much more superior to offensive ones. It would take another couple of decades before the internal combustion engine and the wireless had developed to a stage where they would render trench warfare obsolete. In their absence senior commanders pursued just about every avenue available to them and it is about time their efforts were recognised.
[Incidentally, should you wish to read further you might want to take a look at the following: Battle Tactics of the Western Front, Paddy Griffith; Dominating the Enemy, Anthony Saunders; Douglas Haig: the Educated Soldier, John Terraine; Forgotten Victory, Garry Sheffield.]
At last they’ve got someone in charge who looks like he might sort out their underperforming management and get them back into contention for major trophies and what do they do? Complain about it. Unbelievable. Relegation is too good for these people.
Update Laban Tall points out that football clubs aren’t like other businesses.
“Freedom is not a slogan. Freedom is not just a means to an end. Freedom is our essence. Freedom is our core. Let freedom reign.”
That was Liam Fox speaking at Politeia yesterday. But did he mean it? Well, he also said this:
“Despite the heroic work undertaken in the past 18 months by Michael Howard, we have done too little work in previous years establishing the Conservative brand - not just what we would do but why we would do it,”
Which is encouraging.
I caught the end of an episode of the Great War on BBC2 this afternoon. They’ve got up to 1918 and the Lundendorff Offensive which got me wondering: how come the Allies went from a situation in early 1918 where they were on the defensive to a situation in late 1918 where they were carrying all before them?
Was it the entry of the Americans? Frankly, I doubt it. I don’t see how it could have been. The Americans simply didn’t mount anything big enough. Nothing on the scale of the Somme, Passchendaele or the Hundred Days. This is hardly surprising. When Britain entered the war it had a tiny army. It took the best part of two years before it was able to make any sort of serious contribution. When America joined the war it, too, had a tiny army and there’s no particular reason to think that it could have ramped up its size any faster than the British.
Was it that the Ludendorff Offensive was more costly to the Germans than the Allies? Possibly, but all the figures I’ve heard quoted suggest the opposite: that the Allies lost more men. In other words, the Ludendorff Offensive strengthened the position of the Germans. But, if that is the case, why did it stop? The only conclusion that makes any sense is that the Ludendorff Offensive was much more expensive than the Germans let on. The only way their figures could be correct would be if their losses included a disproportionately high proportion of their best troops.
There is one other possibility (and one you won’t hear that often) - and that is that the Allies had better tactics. What us, better tactics? We of the “get out our trenches and walk slowly towards the enemy” brigade of popular imagination? Surely, not. Well, Blackadder myth-making aside there is plenty of reason to think the Allies would have been better on the offensive than the Germans. The principal one is that they had been doing more of it. From September 1914 the Germans had been content to sit tight while the Allies had been seeking to eject them. Up until 1918 the Allies had had little tangible success but they had learnt a lot.
There is a widespread myth that the Germans were better than the Allies. But it seems to me that a simple examination of the observable facts indicates the precise opposite: the Germans lost because they weren’t as good.
OK, so I am not an actual member of the Conservative Party but nothing ventured nothing gained (not that I am actually venturing anything except opinions). But anyway, if I were in the ring this would be my pitch:
“Fellow Conservatives, we seem to be in a slightly funny mood at the moment. We have gone down to a third straight landslide defeat and yet because we picked up a few seats we seem strangely light-headed. Almost joyous. Just in case any of you are still feeling like that I would bring you back to reality: we lost and we lost badly. Again. This is a wholly unprecedented run of bad results for the Conservative Party.
So, what do we do about it? Modernise, radicalise, change our tone/look/tie widths? No. First of all, we work out why we lost. Then we work out what, if anything, we need to do about it.
The principal reason why we lost is because we do not come across well on television. We do not come across well because we are not allowed to. We are not allowed to because the broadcast media despises us.
They despise our values. They despise free enterprise, they despise tradition and they despise personal responsibility and the idea of free will.
So, what do we do about it? Well, we could say all the things they want to hear. We too could go round blaming Bush, Thatcher, profit underfunding, McDonalds, the banks, the oil companies, the drug companies, the chemical companies, food lobbies, gun lobbies, tobacco lobbies and SUVs in that lazy way so many do because it beats thinking.
But it wouldn’t be credible. We are Thatcher’s Children. We are the heirs to her belief in low taxes, low inflation and free enterprise. For many of us Margaret Thatcher is the very reason we joined the Conservative Party. And the electorate know that. Even if we all had a sudden Damascene conversion and became right, proper politically-correct drones, the electorate still wouldn’t believe us. We couldn’t change our spots even if we wanted to.
Incidentally, the reason Labour changed and I believe it was a genuine conversion was because their core beliefs were proved wrong. In contrast our beliefs are still standing. That is because they are right.
So, if we can’t change, then it has to be the media that changes. Either they have to be persuaded of the merits of our beliefs or they have to be bypassed entirely.
Change the media? Yes, I know, they look all-powerful and all conquering and up until very recently I wouldn’t have given us much hope. But things are starting to change. In the the United States the internet is starting to become a significant factor in national politics. This has been especially true since the rise of the so-called Blogosphere. And the internet is now starting to challenge the the mainstream media, or MSM. And about time too. For years, just as over here, the MSM has been drunk on its own power. Objectivity, accuracy and open-mindedness have been thrown out of the window to be replaced by sloppy, slanted and selective reporting inspired by a rigid liberal world view. They could get away with it because there was no competition. No one to point out their mistakes. But now there is. This was shown most dramatically in the Rathergate Affair. CBS produced an appallingly sloppy attempt to smear the President. Within hours the Blogosphere was pointing the many inaccuracies in the story. The fallout continues but up to now it has included the resignations of several senior CBS executives. And Bush, as you may recall, was re-elected.
This is still early days but I believe we will only see more of this. The MSM is losing power in the US. And if it can lose power in the US it can lose it here. And when it starts to it will lose a lot of that arrogance and with that will come some genuine reporting and with that a fair hearing for Conservatives.
So, to Conservatives out there I say this: change nothing. Stick to your guns, have faith in your beliefs. Things can only get better.”
“Justine Greening...Justine Greening...Have I heard that name before or am I just imagining it?” That was the question I found myself asking when then news came through that she had won Putney for the Conservatives on Election Night. The face seemed familiar but it did occur to me that that could just be because I wanted to believe that I had at some point bumped into the attractive blonde who has hardly been off the TV screens or out of the newspapers since.
Then I read the paper and saw that, like me, she had been at Southampton University in the late 1980s. Still didn’t ring any bells though. So, I did some Googling and got the shock of my life. Seems I had bumped into her before.
- Still doesn’t ring a bell. All the other people mentioned on that page I remember very well and in some cases rather wish I didn’t. But her? Not a sausage. I must be gay.
- I don’t remember a thing about the debate either although clearly Tim and I won. What can you say in defence of being poor?
- What sort of person posts up details of debates that took place almost 20 years ago that even the participants can’t remember much about. And why?
- Of all the people participating in the debate that day, including the chairman, she would have seemed the least likely to have become an MP. Indeed, I cannot recall her having any involvement in the Conservative Association at any time in the course of the next three years. And yet, to my knowledge, she is the only Southampton graduate currently sitting on the Conservative benches (or any other for that matter).
- There’s a lesson in there somewhere.
Apologies to regular readers for the lack of posts over the last couple of weeks but I haven’t been very well. Anyway, I am a lot better now and hopefully, I will soon be back into the swing of things.